LESSON #1: BATMAN IS THE BEST CHARACTER CREATION TO COME OUT OF THE WORLD OF COMIC BOOKS— When done with gusto, what makes Batman unique and special is that he works in any tone. No one else can match his range of iconic interpretation. Not Superman and not a soul over at Marvel Comics. He is, unequivocally, the Dark Knight with nearly 80 years worth of tomes written and drawn with infinite conflict, mood, and darkness. At the same time, when necessary he is, as TV star Adam West dubbed, the Bright Knight of zest, color, and camp, because he is still a regular man with no superpowers dressed up as a bat. Batman works in either setting because the human fortitude at the core of the character, his drive to right wrongs after personal tragedy, can be employed equally for heroic and virtuous causes and also for the vigilante and urban myth that takes matters into his own hands. “The LEGO Batman Movie” checks all the Batman boxes.
LESSON #2: “FIFTY SHADES” WORE OUT ITS WELCOME IN ONE MOVIE— Don’t get me wrong, there will always be an audience for kink and the tawdry novel has a built-in audience of die-hards. A second place box office finish pulling in over $46 million over the big holiday weekend proves enough of that. But $46 million is a long way from the $85 million and change the first film drew in its debut frame. The buzz was as cold as the sex this time around compared to last year’s must-see fever pitch. I expect a 70+% drop off and the film failing to crack $100 million domestically. The third film of the trilogy is going to be a tough sell.
LESSON #3: KEANU REEVES STILL HAS IT— “John Wick: Chapter 2” doubled everything about the cult hit 2014 first film, from squib budgets to box office earnings. For the first time in a long time, Captain Whoa, Keanu Reeves, has a hit on his hands. I’m not calling the comeback complete yet. After all, this was still third place and behind a crappy “Fifty Shades Darker.” Before we vault him back to the A-list, let’s see him successfully open a film not named “John Wick.”
LESSON #4: TAKE SOME ADVICE FROM THE BRITISH ACROSS THE POND. YOU NEED TO SEE “LION”— This week’s BAFTA Awards, the U.K.’s equivalent to the Oscars, the underdog film of “Lion” pulled off a pair of high-profile upsets in Best Adapted Screenplay over “Moonlight” and Best Supporting Actor for Dev Patel over Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight.” While “Lion” isn’t going to steamroll anything on Oscar night, take it from me, the film is worth your time. It’s palpable true story of heartstrings that avoids more of the Oscar bait cliches than it exploits.
LESSON #5: SOMEBODY TAKE THE STICK FROM HARRISON FORD— Just short of two years after a self-piloted plane crash seriously injured the beloved actor, Harrison Ford nearly collided this week with a passenger plane on a taxiway while landing at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Harrison, you’re 74. We know Paul Newman raced cars into his 80s and you’re doing what you love. We get the appeal, but GET OFF THAT PLANE! We still need you.
LESSON #6: WHAT’S YOUR FORGIVENESS LEVEL FOR MEL GIBSON?— Clickbait spun this week about “Hacksaw Ridge” Oscar nominee Mel Gibson being courted by Warner Bros. to direct a “Suicide Squad” sequel. Even his inclusion of being considered brought out the “how could you hire this ___ (take your pick: philanderer, misogynist, homophobe, anti-Semite)” outrage, searing social media feeds. You would think he was selected to be the next Secretary of Education. Personally, I don’t think he even takes the offer, not after his public thoughts on “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” five months ago. Still, swallowing the rainbow of opinions on your news feed begs this lesson’s question. Has he paid for his past misdeeds? Has his conduct improved? Do you boycott his work? Does he deserve the chances he’s getting?
LESSON #7: BE CAREFUL HOW YOU THROW AROUND THE LABELS OF “WHITE-WASHING” AND “WHITE SAVIOR”— Months of silly and misguided speculation on Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou’s “The Great Wall” finally get answered this weekend when the film makes its North American debut. I don’t mean to mirror Bill Maher, but here’s a new rule: See the film before you judge it. Until then, you just add to the noise of internet trolls and alternative facts. Point of fact, the film is a fantasy epic closer to “The Lord of the Rings” than a revisionist historical drama. Honestly, the only opinions of integrity that matter are the people making the film. Read Zhang Yimou’s strong words on the controversy and put your false argument to bed.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He is also one of the founders and directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.